LAPORTE — Northridge's baseball season came to an end Saturday as they fell to Mishawaka, 7-0, in the Class 4A Regional semifinal game at LaPorte High School.
The Raiders trailed 2-0 after the fifth inning when Mother Nature decided to make her presence felt. Rain, thunder and lightning hit the LaPorte area, delaying the game for a little over an hour. When the game resumed in the top of the sixth, Northridge starting pitcher Cam Knepp remained in the game.
Knepp had been effective before the rain delay, allowing the two runs on just five hits while recording seven strikeouts. The long delay appeared to affect the junior, however, as he didn't finish the sixth inning.
After a single, intentional walk and a passed ball put runners at second and third with no outs, Knepp struck out Mishawaka's Sam Shively. The next batter, Sam Rajski, though, ripped a 2-RBI single to left, doubling the Cavemen lead.
A fielder's choice on the next at-bat left a runner at first with two outs. That's when Mishawaka senior Colin Fee smashed a triple to deep center field, scoring Kristian Woods to make it 5-0. Donovan Snyder walked, followed by a 2-RBI double from senior Grant Jablonski. This made it 7-0 Mishawaka, ending Knepp's day.
"I don't think the weather had that much to do with him," Northridge interim coach Dyrk Miller said. "He was ready to go. We just didn't play really well behind him."
Miller was the interim coach after full-time head coach Andrew Brabender, along with pitcher Davis Enfield, were suspended for the game by the IHSAA for violating the pitch count rule. Enfield pitched beyond the 120-pitch limit in the Sectional championship game against Penn, which resulted in a one-game suspension for the coach and player.
Miller was hush about the incident following the game.
"I'm not going to respond to that," he said. "I think our team responded very well. We played hard, we just didn't play well."
While the Mishawaka offense finally erupted, the Northridge one stayed quiet all day. This was, in large part, due to the pitching performance from Jablonski. The right-hander tossed a complete game, striking out 11 Raider hitters while allowing just three hits. Only one Northridge player, Reece Lueking, reached second base.
"He kept them off balance. I told him before the game that he was our ticket to the championship game," Mishawaka coach John Huemmer said. "We were considering making a change because of the long delay, but when we put more runs up on the board, we were thinking to save Ryan Watt for the second game."
Mishawaka was scheduled to play Lake Central in the Regional championship game Saturday night, but the game was postponed to Monday due to weather.
Miller gave credit to Jablonski's curveball.
"From our vantage point, it was dirty. He consistently threw it for a strike and kept us off balance. When you can hold our team to three hits ... he's a good pitcher," Miller said. "He pumped the strike zone. He was dealing and made us hit a lot of ground balls."
Mishawaka scored its first two runs on RBIs from junior Derrick Dawson. He had a solo home run in the second inning and an RBI single in the third.
"Derrick did a great job at the plate. He was just able to track the ball well," Huemmer said.
Northridge finishes its season with a 22-8 record. Most of the core of the team will be coming back next season, however, as they graduate only three seniors.
"The positive is we have a good crew coming back. Hopefully they learn from this," Miller said. "It's always tough for seniors. We have three seniors that ... it's a big blow. This was a very close team and one of the closest we've had. They're hurting."
Austin Hough can be reached at email@example.com or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN